Square Enix and the product of languishing delivery: Part Deux

Well the drama continues over at Square Enix where many people have yet to receive their collectors edition of Lightning Returns. There have been complaints to the Better Business Bureau, calls to Square Enix and calls to Digital River. with lots of finger pointing. Well finally Square Enix have responded and sadly they somehow made things slightly worse. Here is a small quote:

Earlier today, Square Enix North America learned that a small number of our fans had not yet received their online order placed from February 7-8. To all those affected, we sincerely apologize. Like you, we understand the frustration of not getting an order on the day it was promised.

We have since identified and remedied the issue, and are working to ensure that all of the orders will be processed in an expedited fashion.

Now they have supposedly sent as compensation an email to “those affected” with a credit, free delivery and refund of original shipping charge. Now that is pretty fair all considering but note that dates of the affected customers. Feb 7-8? Really?

So we have people affected well before that date and also after. What about them? Many people reported not even receiving that famous email. I know I haven’t but I am just waiting for my game patiently while playing Ni No Kuni.

I think the big lesson that needs to be learned is communication and customer service. Both have been executed poorly and looking at their remedy, they are not putting much thought into their future actions either.

For those still waiting for their game all I can say is keep the faith, I am waiting  with you all and maybe by the time the next Final Fantasy comes out we may have it.

Square Enix Apology

The Rocksmith Experience Part 1: The Beginning

The Rocksmith Experience will be my journey as a newbie who has no prior experience playing a guitar as I learn from scratch. I have a slight background mind you in classical music having played a clarinet for five years (there were no saxophones left!!). So I have the principle of reading sheet music, tempo, etc but will it translate well…I have no idea but just giving you all a heads up before I dive into this adventure with you.

As a background, I have had my eye on Rocksmith from the earlier edition. It intrigued me greatly however I could never bring myself to purchase it. Was it good? Was it more for people who had experience? I had a lot of questions and sure sites reviewed it but there was still the skeptic in me as this was the first game / tool of it’s kind so thought maybe that it was a fad with no further support.

But now Rocksmith 2014 is out and finally I decided that I was going to give this a go. I read reviews from multiple sources making sure to read customer reviews in particular. Some seem really mixed but skewed towards the extremely positive. It made the decision a bit easier.

When buying Rocksmith and are a total newbie like myself then I highly recommend finding the bundle of the guitar / game / cable. The guitar is really nice is it’s styling and feels good. Having not played a guitar in my life I was surprised at the weight. It was heavier then I imagined but was not cumbersome.  The strap provided while not the most comfortable, does the job as any strap would. I will play around with the adjustment to get it just right and maybe it will improve things.

A big thing to note is that it is recommended you plug the audio of your console directly in your home theater itself rather then going through the tv then to the home theater. What can happen is that you will encounter lag between when you play and the the actual sound.  At any rate this is generally doable. I was happy that I got the 360 version as it was running from component anyways.

With all that I was ready to rock on. But keeping in mind all the reviews and just obvious assumption, this will be a long road to learn to play.  Rocksmith gets you started by getting you to tune your guitar. You have a meter and have to strum the guitar while making adjustments to equalize it all.  In my day 1 experience this was probably the most awkward as it wasn’t obvious for a newb like what what sense to turn the nobs to tighten. Devil’s advocate though in that maybe they wanted it to be exactly this way focusing you on dicking around and actually getting to know your guitar. Show no fear!!

Finally we are all tuned up and ready to go. From what I understood based on complaints was that the game is not exactly intuitive for a beginner but I bed to differ. It asks you what style of play you want to do. Lead, backup or bass. Then you tell the game you experience level. From there you are taken right to the menu. On the main menu you have plenty of options. Learn a Song, Lessons, Multiplayer, Session, Shop, etc. I figured that Lessons was a place to start and I was right. In order you get to learn how to play your guitar.

You can start by adjusting the strap, getting to know the fret board, holding the pick and then playing some basic notes. It’s all very cool and the game is very supportive of your efforts. If you have any trouble the game will repeat the cords to play but at a slower pace and as you improve, it will increase the tempo back to regular. It also throws out encouraging “excellent” and “awesome” phrases. But if you mess up as I did often, the game slowed down, alerted you of the fact it was slowing but not in a way that made you feel bad. It was encouraging.

So while I had initial trouble getting some notes and getting my fingers in the right places I was able through practice to get better to the point that I felt good of my little accomplishment for the day.

Having played for about an hour, I didn’t play any official song but I didn’t feel like I needed to. I am not there yet and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact I decided to peruse the menu and see what all the game had to offer and of surprise was the Guitarcade. Guitarcade is arcade style old school games that require you to use the guitar to accomplish goals. You have high scores, leader boards and actual fun game play to keep you going. I thought this was amazing as it was teaching you basics while providing you a simple game to play it.

Day 1 is over now and I have nothing but praises for this solid game / learning tool. Whoever said learning cannot be fun certainly wasn’t playing this game. I really cannot wait for my next play sessions.

Note: I didn’t think of this when I purchased this guitar / game bundle but think about maybe getting a guitar stand for your living room .The guitar is way to nice to leave lying around. This isn’t your plastic guitar hero guitar.

Video Game Review: Tomb Raider

I heard great things about the newest game / reboot of the Tomb Raider series and seeing as how Steam had an amazing deal where you go all the games for $14 then I couldn’t pass the opportunity. I immediately dug into the game having heard the hype but also knowing it’s history. Suffice it to say this is a series that is now reinvigorated and ready to roll.

Tomb Raider follows a younger more naive Lara as she convinces her mentor and expedition team to diverge from their path to find the a lost kingdom called Yamatai in the Dragon’s Triangle (think Bermuda Triangle). Obviously things don’t work out for Lara and she ends up on an island where many others have shared similar fate. Those who remain have been indoctrinated into a cult of sorts but there is more to it then that. They seek freedom from an island that does not want to let them go.

The plot in itself is very engaging with lots of documents to be found and locations to be seen. The island is very much alive as you make your way exploring every nook and cranny. You often wonder what other areas you will find which is part of the fun.

Characterization in the game is very well done. Here we have a young, not so very confident Lara who gets horribly hurt at times but has to suck it up to keep moving. It sounds oversimplified the way I say it but we really get to see her grow and that the incredibly messed up situations she is in help her grow into the Tomb Raider we know she will be. And it’s not just her experiences that help her along the way as the supporting cast all have their part. The voice acting is very well done and there never seem’s to be a shallow character. Each have their role and in that role they have depth.

Gameplay wise Tomb Raider is a joy. Handling of Lara and jumping around is very smooth. Lara is limited to four main weapons, though she can use a climbing axe as a weapon. Each weapon is upgradable after you find materials. Materials are typical found as the main story continues however you find even more by finding Tombs. Also as you progress upgrades to your skills and new ones can be purchased to help round out Lara. I don’t say this very often but the game play feels so great that I don’t want them to change it EVER. If they want to add to this foundation that is ok however what they have now is perfect for the series.

As I briefly mentioned Tomb Raider has actual tombs to be discovered. There are more sub quest type of areas where it presents a simple challenge and once completed you find a gold treasure chest with items for upgrading your weapons. While tomb raiding should be obvious and cool I find this aspect alone to be the weakest. The challenges are not very challenging and the tomb explorations are rather short. I would have liked a few longer areas to explore and maybe something non useful but historical to be found. They packed a lot of flavour into the game, why stop now.

The game will suck up lots of time as it clocks in at 14 hours. However if you love collecting all the little documents, gps tracers, challenges, etc that can be found in each area then you can get even more game time clocked in.

Out of all the reboots I have seen, Tomb Raider by far is the best that I have seen so far. It respects the franchise and it makes Lara Croft more approachable in bringing a more serious mature nature to her. This is not your over sexualized Lara who we were left with, this is the new and improved Lara. Hear her roar!

Video Game Review: Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Transformers: War for Cybertron is an awesome game which was very true to the G1 mythos plus or minus some alterations. It was so successful that a sequel was made. Now with sequels, we sometimes fall short of what the first game was. Luckily for us though T:FoC is as good if not better then the first game.

T:FoC takes us to the Ark heading towards the space portal and the Decepticons intercepting. This is very much like the animated series in how it all began though with much more grandeur. Suddenly though we are brought to how this all came about and that is the Autobots needing to refuel the Ark after a Decepticon attack. The plot seem’s simple enough but there is more than meets the eye (oh god I am so sorry for that pun).  The pace throughout the game is quick and really gets you in the feeling that you are in the middle of a war which I just love.

The game is divided by chapters for various Autobot or Decepticon character. Rather than in the first game, T: FoC doesn’t give you the option of choosing a campaign side but rather integrates both sides in the overall plot. This gives a much wider view of all the events unfolding at key moments. The amount of characters you play is diverse which is an improvement on the original. On a side note one of the most fun characters to play as was Bruticus. Yes BRUTICUS!!! We often think what it would be like to merge and play as Devastator , Computron or even Bruticus and let me tell you…it’s oh so satisfying but while playing a giant is exciting you also get to play as Grimlock who is a fan favorite. In fact it makes him cooler if that’s possible.

So we have an awesome plot, a diverse character experience but that is not all. Controls feel much more refined. Not that there is a huge difference but it “feels” better, smoother and easier.  I never felt that I was hampered in my movements in either mode.

High Moon delivered an epic game in the Transformers franchise. It leaves the door wide open for the next installment and, fingers crossed, they manage to get one done. The game is not long by any stretch clocking in at roughly 8 hours if not less but while I would normally nit pick about that I cannot use it as a valid complaint in this case. The experience is complete and you feel fulfilled when all is concluded.

The game is an obvious labor of love and it shows from the designs, the mythology, quotes from the series and other such easter eggs. If you’re a fan of the series in any form whatsoever then you need to play this game. It is designed for you specifically in mind but will no doubt even suck in those who are less familiar with mythos.

Video Game Review: Dead Space 3

Dead Space has been an interesting series. It brought the survival horror theme into space which, while not exactly new, made it special again. But that was then and now we are at the third iteration of the series. So how does it fair? Well, let me tell you…it’s great!

Be forewarned that Dead Space 3 is more action then subtle horror.  The jumps are few and far in between. It’s not a bad thing mind you and it actually feels like the progression of the series. You cannot repeat the same formula without things getting stale. Sometimes you do feel like it is repetitive in the sense that it has the same kinds of monsters and generally you know when to expect them but the story is good enough to keep you going.

Ah so the story….We find our poor Isaac Clarke trying to deal with the aftermath from Dead Space 2. He is alone and trying to leave everything behind him in some sort of forced retreat. Of course there are markers involved as well in this entry and it plays the central focus but there is also more of a religious aspect in this as well. It makes for a different dynamic though we caught a glimpse of fanatical religion in Dead Space 2.

Obviously there are ships and you’re stuck in one but there is also some time on two different planets. I was soooo very glad that there was something other than an abandoned or overrun ship. It somewhat spiced things up from the norm. They also tried something interesting and that was travelling from one ship to another via service craft. From wherever your docking station was you could float around and explore. This was a bit of a treat because you had the grandeur and horror that is space. The debris and listing ships overlooking a planet was spectacular. It gave zero gravity play more depth than it ever did.

Unfortunately the creatures were not anything really new however there were a few entries. Boss battles were not particularly challenging. I remember much tougher battles in the previous games but that is not a bad thing. Rather then bog you down in a difficult battle you are pushed onward into the rest of the story. This makes things more compelling play wise.

Crafting is rather integral to the game or so they were hoping. You have the ability through the work bench to make weapons and customize them with parts you gather. You can also add circuits which give the weapon a particular bonus. There are also blue prints to find but you will never really have enough resources to build them. While all this crafting sounds great I literally stayed with the original weapon modified of course and stuck with that through the game.

All of these things combined make Dead Space 3 an excellent well rounded game. Dead Space 3 has garnered a lot of negative criticism however I think it’s not totally fair. It’s trying to expand the universe and freshen things up. The action is still intense and things move along incredibly well. The story is tight and adds more to the mythos of the Markers not to mention seeing Isaac grow as a character. In the end your left feeling extremely satisfied and that’s what a good game does. If Dead Space 3 has proven anything is that it still has a place on our shelves and definitely worth exploring more.

Ni no Kuni is now in stores!

For those fans of animation and video games, Studio Ghibli teamed up with the developer Level 5 for this truly unique RPG called Ni no Kuni. It has been getting rave reviews from gaming sites but unfortunately I have personally not go my hands on it yet. Damn you gaming backlog!! But for those looking for an awesome RPG experience, I hear this is a great one.

Video Game Review: The Last Story

The Last Story is a Wii game made by Mistwalker Studios which you may have heard rumblings about in the past. For one it was not even expected to head to North America and took a lot of petitioning via Operation Rainfall to get attention to this title as well as two others. Finally though this supposed epic RPG headed our way and luckily I managed to pick up a copy of this limited release.

The Last Story takes us on a journey of a young group of merc’s lead by Dagran but you play his best friend Zael. This is a bit on the odd side but it works story wise. You aspire to be a knight as the life of a merc is a relentless one and fortune smiles by the fateful meeting between Zael and the Princess Calista who ran away from home. Things pick up and conspiracies are afoot leading to an epic story between two cultures and mysterious beings who seek their freedom.

The story is very compelling but I expect no less from Sakaguchi. The first few hours of the game can have some awkward pacing. You might find yourself at a lack of direction. Actually may times you will and simply walking somewhere will trigger the next part which makes you wonder. But despite this the story is truly one worth experiencing. There is greed, love, fear, prejudice and plenty other topics covered. I like when my RPG can cover a range of themes and not just the hero saves the day. It’s gritty and it takes everything in stride. You are looking at a definite solid 20 hours game time to complete the game but there are sub quests to deviate you and expand this time.

The characters are all british voiced which is interesting. It’s interesting to us in North America as it’s not frequently done where a game is completely done this way. It’s nice and very well done. The characters are an ecclectic group with varying personalities. Over the course of the game you really get to know them and in the case of some there stories really blossom near the end of the game. It’s nice to see a fully fleshed out group.

Gameplay wise I am a bit less satisfied. The controls for the Wii offer no particular value. While I don’t want waggle slapped in for the heck of it I would liketo see some inventive ways to use it. However the wii mote is relegated to being used occasionally for shooting a crossbow and that is simply a targeter on the screen and voila. The game attempts to be strategic at times by having destructable obstacles or providing magical enemies in the rear of an enemy group. The idea is that you need to plan your attacks however I found probably 90% of the time I would run and kill.

The biggest gripe typically is levelling in an RPG. Typically they all tend to be rather grinding. I almost thought this was dispelled by The Last Story. Throughout the whole game everything went extremely well. I never felt underpowered compared to an enemy and even bosses fell to my blade however that being said there was the final boss. Suddenly the difficulty skyrocketed and I thought I was missing something. While some bosses were challenging I would be wipped out within minutes at the end of a 20 minute final boss which is ANNOYING. That said I looked online and sure enough, there was no special strategy, nothing required except…level grinding. Now being at the end I couldn’t go out and find any bad guys to kill. Instead there is what is a called a summoning circle. You summon enemies that you can kill if your lagging behind. I had to gain literally 10 levels (so from level 54-64) to be able to beat the last boss. This is poor design. Either make the boss scalable or make enough encounters to bring your group up to the level they should be.

The levels are very well put together and offers a crisp flow. A quickly accessible map lets you jump areas. I won’T say quickly however as loading is a bit of an issue. Now I am not sure if this is a problem of the Wii primarly however the game loads every 5 fucking minutes. Go here, load and wait. Go there, load and wait. The load times are not overly long but there is a lot of them which is really annoying.

Visually they game is a mixed bag. It falls on Playstation 2 type of graphics and even then I find them at times sub standard even for that. The cutscenes are gorgeous which makes you take a step back and think why is there such a difference. Now we all know the Wii cannot produce super duper graphics but seeing games like Xenoblade and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword you have to wonder what the problem is. It seem’s at times that the whole world had this blurr effect going on. At first I chalked it up to dirty glasses and subsequently cleaned them however I noticed that nope, not going away. Alright for it’s trying to mask that it looks maybe not so good.

Now while I have mentioned some negatives don’t let it detract you from playing this. They are very small ticks that piss me off but the game is still a lot of fun to be playing and to simply experience the story is worth it.And let’s not forget to musical score by Nobuo Uematsu which is top notch. While there isn’t a lot of songs they are melodic and very classic. Of course while there are melodic songs there is also some rock music for boss battles which is much more up temp.

The Last Story was almost a perfect name for this Wii game which was more or less Nintendo’s swan song for the current generation of games in North America. I have to give praise to Mistwalker for making an excellent game all around and being  at the forefront of RPG game design.